*Authors Note: This was originally featured on my old personal blog, Sew Thus Is Life. You can see it here. However many of the feelings expressed are relevant to me, and others today.*
So I love reading Humans of New York Posts. This one floated across my timeline a while back and had me shook.
It was basically my maternity leave.
There are several beautiful Black Queens that I'm "framily" with who are all getting ready to bring their beautiful melanated princesses and princes into the world. A few others have newborns very well experiencing the Fourth Trimester. My advice to you: don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
So, I'm a Type AB person with high functioning anxiety. Basically, a hot mess, but I make it look good. And that's how I existed for nine months of pregnancy, and three months postpartum. Inside I was a wreck, a tumultuous ball of shot nerves, worry, guilt, breastmilk and caffeine. I would literally stay up all day till 5 am watching "I Love Lucy", hovering over my daughters Rock n Play, W A I T I N G for her to stir, or cry, or pee; or mad that my husband's useless nipple self was upstairs enjoying that good stage 4 sleep until he would make me go lay down for 3 hours and I'd start the insanity all over again. I trusted no one, not even myself. This chocolate angel was relying on ME and I had to make sure she was taken care of, by any means necessary. Being a new SAHM also wore into this, as I felt the baby and the house was now my only purpose (this is a lie.) I didn't want to be a bother, I told myself " You have one job..." "You need to be doing MORE." At the time my mom was coming over in the evening to help watch the baby as I transitioned into my new role as mom. But she still works full time, so I felt bad having her come over to help me do a job I'm supposed to be biologically inclined to do. Hubby had returned to work one week after birth, and he had to- he was now the sole provider in the house. But he also had other obligations to tend to due to an unfortunate encounter with Virginia's finest, and that extended his days too. I knew he needed rest. I didn't want to bother him either.
But what about me? Don't I deserve rest too?
I did, and you do too. But American society has brainwashed us women that we have to do it all. Be the rockstar partner, mother, businesswoman, gourmet chef, Instagram and Pinterest curator, the list goes on. And if you can't, well too bad. As Black women, our moms and grandmothers are full of one- liners and cliches: "Girl, you just gotta do what you gotta do... We didn't even HAVE time off when I had my babies... I didn't have no help..." The last one burns me to my core. "I didn't have no help." It's that kind of saying that you know isn't completely true, but it isn't false either. I know in my family, that saying usually refers to the lack of male or partner support, husbands that worked all day then come home expecting a clean house with dinner and disappearing kids. And the weekends? Ghost.
"I didn't have no help."
Thankfully shifting norms see Millennial parents both being generally active in the rearing of the child. And my husband was willing to share the load, but I just couldn't let go. Until one night I just fell completely apart. Nugget was beginning to exhibit signs of purple crying, also called the witching hour, and it manifested right as hubby would leave for work, around 8 or 9 p.m. (Completely normal infant behavior, btw.) But I was exhausted, I wasn't sleeping. As he wished me a good night, I burst into tears- hyperventilating tears. I couldn't even articulate real words. I told him I'd be fine but thank God he wasn't buying it, because he called both of our moms while on his way to work, panicked. They showed up in my living room less than 30 minutes later, calmed me down and sent me to bed, and said if the baby needed me they'd wake me. They sat together till 1 in the morning when I woke up and my mother in law left. My mom stayed the night, and continued to do so for another week or so. I realized then I needed personal help, and I also realized I was moving beyond just "baby blues", I scheduled my first therapy appointment to coincide with my 6 week postpartum visit.
Everyone wants to hold the baby, who will hold the mother?- Jabina Coleman, LSW, MSW, IBCLC
So what does help look like?
I tell people all the time, "I got the baby". But in the beginning, we need to look at mothering the mother. Two new people were birthed the day that baby came into the world. What does SHE need? A healthy, happy mom results in a healthy, happy baby. Coming to sit in a new moms face, and ask how the baby is sleeping is NOT HELP. Offering to bottle feed (unless that is the mothers decision) is NOT HELP. Telling a new mom she looks tired, or asking has she eaten is NOT HELP. In other cultures, the older women rally around a new mom making sure SHE is taken care of; getting her food, ensuring she stays clean and comfortable, that her womb is healing, supporting her in breastfeeding initiation, that her other children and husband are taken care of so mom can solely focus on her baby. Modern help could also be:
planning a meal train
holding the baby long enough for mom to shower and *gasp* brush her teeth
setting up an in- home spa day
playdates for older kids
learning how to baby wear
respecting moms feeding choices (i.e. bringing baby TO mom to nurse if she's breastfeeding)
being an ear
helping to be or pay for a postpartum doula
New mommies, don't be afraid to ask for help. Delegate the things you can control so you have the energy you need for your new blessing, especially if you have to return to work. Use that time to focus solely and completely on your child. The other stuff can wait. Don't make more work on yourself trying to appease other people, and don't let people (especially family) make you feel guilty or less than for asking. Family, if you see a mom struggling, offer. Offer genuinely, not something you can post on the 'gram. Or better yet, just do. I wouldn't want another mom going through something I experienced if it can be avoided. And as the mother of a young girl, I hope I model for her that its okay to need help, we're not superheroes- and even then many of them had sidekicks and backup. It truly does take a village to raise a child. And make a mom. ♥